Sunday, 7 February 2016

Ted fancies a dinner date near a tube station

… I didn’t know that I did actually though until The Doll came home with a Morgan Price infographic that rather helpfully shows the average price of a meal using a selection of London’s tube stations as reference points. Zoom in on a tube station and you'll see what I mean. She said “let’s see if we can find the best value for money in central London Ted”. I immediately knew exactly where we would go.  Yes, dear readers we would go to one of my personal favourites located between the Tottenham Court Road and Covent Garden tubes.

Rossodisera (sunset?) in Monmouth Street is the pride and joy of friends Samuele and Igor, and a tribute to all things authenticate and delicious which they import directly from their favourite producers in their home region of Le Marche in Italy. Situated in the middle of Italy, Le Marche has the beautiful Adriatic Sea on one side and joins up inland with several regions in the Italian hinterland - its more famous neighbours being Tuscany and Umbria. The restaurant frontage is very unassuming and from the street looks like a typical little Italian deli with a small number of tables occupied by people who always look like they are having a good time. The “diner happiness factor” is a top Ted indicator when choosing a restaurant.

The Doll and I were given a table downstairs where the kitchen is and proceeded to pour over the menu while breathing in all the delicious smells and eyeing up the wine collection. They have a set menu which is exceptional value for money at £13.90 for 2 courses and £17.90 for 3 courses. In the interests of research naturally I would have chosen off that menu if the Doll hadn’t said “Ted let’s have the Salumi e Fromaggi platter of cured meats and local cheeses with honey and preserves and that delicious home-made bread, and then I’m having the mushroom and truffle pasta because they do it properly with butter and parmesan cheese and no cream”.  Ah ok why not – so for my main I chose lamb chops with casseroled whole artichokes and some (Italian naturally) oven roasted tomatoes with basil on the side.

Everything was in balance, fresh, clean, earthy, sweet, and salty, all playing harmoniously together in your mouth, complimented beautifully by a wine made from a local grape Vernaccia Nera. This grape is actually known by many names in different places - the Spanish call it Garnacha and claim it as their own, and in Sardegna (Sardinia) it’s known as Cannonau and naturally they refute the Spanish claim. I know this much – I like the version that comes from Le Marche and I know you’ll love Rossodiserra and the fabulous Italian hospitality they will show you.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

Art & Cake

When you get an invite to see some art and eat cake you'd be crazy not to go.  The best part is when both are truly fabulous.

Lumas Gallery have launched a series of fabulous postcard size photos bonded in acrylic.  They have a unique hook on the back which is also a magnet.  Hang on the wall or stick all over your fridge, get a group and make a mosaic (like in the picture above).

Check out some of the fun and quirky ready to hang images they are currently selling.

Oh and the cakes, they were made by Konditor and Cook! (Remember Ted's favourite mince pies). Yum.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Gin Palace and the Ghosts

In the late 19th century Gin Palaces (posh pubs) were very fashionable places to frequent, and gin was even attributed with medicinal properties.  This beautifully decorated pub in Holborn is once again specialising in gin but it also has a dark secret below stairs.

In the basement is a dark and secret world of hidden rooms and tunnels where ghosts roam.  The pub is opposite the old Newgate Prison (that also has its own ghosts).  At a time when crimes were punishable by hanging the event was a social occasion watched by jeering crowds.  To avoid the crowds and to make sure the officiating clergy could get there on time a tunnel was built from the church to the hanging site, passing beneath the pub.

It was common practice for prisoners to be buried in and around the area, perhaps it is some of these poor souls who do not rest whose ghostly forms haunt the old Gin Palace. John or is it George? No one knows for sure, plays havoc moving barrels around.  Then there is the prostitute whose favourite pastime is to open the fire escape door from inside the toilet (there is no handle on that side of the door or any way to open it) and toss rolls of toilet paper across the floor of the basement.

The pub was one of the first in England to have electricity, but it was very unreliable.  One particular evening when the lights had gone out the landlady and a staff member went down stairs with a candle to sort the problem out.  The door slammed shut behind her, a colleague heard her scream and raced to her assistance.  She had passed out, but when she came to she told of how her candle blew out, then she felt a warm breathe on the back of her neck and a hand across her mouth.  She resigned two days later!

On my visit I too experienced the door slam behind me in this cell like room.  I suspect the staff member who was showing me around and laughing, had something to do with that.  However it is very dark and eerie in here.  No wonder I needed a wee gin to recover!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Cure for the Common Cold

In the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city is St Etheldreda's Church dating from about 1250 making it the oldest catholic church in England.

The church is named after Etheldreda who was born in 630, the daughter of King Anna of East Anglia.  She is attributed with freeing the bondsmen on her lands and generally being really popular with people at the time.  Her body was moved twice, the latter time 450 years after her death, when her body was found perfectly preserved it simply added to her saintly persona.

Among the saints and history are rituals and traditions (of course it is a catholic church after all) one such event is held on the 3rd of February, the ritual of "Blessing of the Throats."

Hey a cure for the common cold!  Well no I'm afraid not.  The tale appears to be born out of an event by Saint Blaise.  Well he wasn't a saint to begin with, that honour came after the miracles.  During the religious wars he was thrown into prison to rethink his religion.  While he was in there he "miraculously cured" a young boy who was choking on a fish bone.  Seems he was pretty good at treating throat ailments, so once a year he is called upon to treat ailments of the throat.

With the number of people coughing in London at present he has his work cut out for him.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Spring came early

The daffodils are out and the ravens are chasing the squirrels, it's hard to believe it is only the beginning of February.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

An Unusual Cafe

A new life for the men's loos, it is now a rather hipster cafe where the ceramic urinals are now where you sit and have your coffee.

 Perhaps this should have been posted yesterday for the City Daily Photo blogs  theme day yesterday.

Monday, 1 February 2016


Dashing by on my way to meet a friend at St James Park just as the Changing of the Guards ceremony was about to start.  If you're wanting to catch this event take it in at Horse Guards Parade rather the Buckingham Palace  for a better view and smaller crowds.  

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Ted and the great roll off

…no sadly that’s not a euphemism for me having lost weight … rather that this week I had the pleasure of attending the Great Sausage Roll Off 2016. A woman (who was not the Doll) and who shall remain anonymous (Bernadette) accompanied me on the long and arduous overland journey by train and foot to the Red Lion Pub in the quaint and rather chichi London riverside suburb of Barnes for the competition.

The brain child of the pubs co-manager Angus McKean, the great Sausage Roll Off is in now in its 4th year, and this year it was raising money for the Shooting Star Chase – a children’s hospice charity. The evening was compered by the incomparable Melissa Cole SommALEier and the offerings were judged by a panel of four comprising of two professional chefs and two professional eaters (my dream job).

Naturally I did a bit of research on the origins of the sausage roll before I went and discovered something quite amazing.  Sausage rolls are so ubiquitous to the UK, Europe and the Commonwealth that nobody can really say where and when they arrived – they just always seem to have been around, and no party table or picnic basket is complete without them. However, it wasn't until late 2015 that the New York Times decided to introduce them to the USA apparently (can this be true America??)!!

Pretty much everyone agrees that they are ground seasoned meat (usually pork) wrapped in puff pastry and baked to a lovely golden colour, to be eaten hot or cold. Armed with that vast background knowledge we made up a scoring regime of texture, taste and look, and settled in for the offerings that were to come our way over the evening. A sausage roll in the hands of chefs and their imagination becomes a multi-splendid thing that can range from wild duck and rhubarb, smoked pork belly with rum syrup bacon, rabbit leg with braised salsify and walnut, and Japanese beef tartare in brioche, all the way to haggis supper with curry sauce.

Of course I wasn't an official judge but nevertheless I took my task seriously and looked and sniffed and tasted and made “it’s delicious but is it really and truly holding to the essence of sausage roll tradition” or “this one’s got a soggy bottom” pronouncements.  We got to the end of heat 3 and I was delighted with how I had paced myself and was looking forward to the final judging and the results, when Bernadette duly informed me that there was indeed another heat to go and the reason I didn’t realise that was because my heat 4 sheet of paper had become stuck to the back of the heat 3 sheet with sauce, bits of filling, and flakes of pastry, and the rest was on my face and my jumper.

I've put the photos in first, second and third place order.  The winner was Phil Harrison with his pheasant and black pudding offering.  Hotly pursued by sage, garlic and onions with Jack Daniels, followed by a venison, wild mushroom and pickled blackberry delight. Right ... must roll on ...

Saturday, 30 January 2016

The Sand Castle

Slowly washing away as the Thames tide rises. The sand castle makers make grand creations on this sandy patch of the river at Gabriel's Wharf in the expectation of coins tossed to them by passersby. Then hours later stand by and see their work washed away.

Friday, 29 January 2016

A Posh Tree House

A novel way of advertising dream holidays in Africa is there reason for the treehouse on the Southbank.  There was an opportunity to win an overnight stay in the lofty hut by registering your details with the company.  No lions and tigers to see from your bedroom window but a not half bad view over the Thames instead, and plenty of people wandering by to replace the trumpeting of a stray elephant.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

A Green Face

Tucked away in a corner of Southwark is a small public garden known as Red Cross Gardens.  Created in Victorian times on the site of a burnt down paper factory, designed as a space for local children to play in the sunshine.

There is another more chilling history to the site that dates back hundreds of years and that is as a paupers grave where it is believed most of those buried here were prostitutes.

Today it continues to be small community garden but perhaps with a doomed future as the London Bridge development and new tower blocks spring up all around it.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

On the way to Market

Hard to imagine our urban streets with traffic whizzing by, once being paths where the cattle were driven to market for sale.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Gardening on the Line

Londoners are used to hearing a plethora of reasons why rail services are cancelled: tracks too wet, tracks too dry, snow on the line, leaves on the line, but they didn't tell us about gardening on the line!
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